Editor's note: This is a letter sent by the parents of a transgender child before the start of the youth's school year last year. The child's name has been changed to protect her identity.
Aug. 25, 2011
To the parents of the fourth-grade class:
We hope that you all had a wonderful summer and welcome back! For those of you who may not know us, we are Mark and Linda (last name deleted). Today we are writing to update you on some personal changes regarding our child, Peter.
Peter has been diagnosed with gender identity condition. This can be a devastating condition that can turn the life of a child upside down. Many of you have probably read about gender identity condition, also called transgender, or seen this subject discussed on talk shows or news programs. In essence, a person with this condition is born into the body of the opposite gender. Biologically, Peter is a boy. But in every other sense, she is a girl. Obviously this can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It's hard to imagine how heartbreaking it is for a child to realize that they have been born into the wrong body.
We realize that many of you will find this news shocking and confusing. But it wouldn't be fair to say that this diagnosis has caught our family by surprise. Peter has always identified with the female gender from a very early age. Many of Peter's friends and playmates have been girls. He has always preferred playing with dolls and girl things. Whenever we are home, he has usually been dressed up in girls' clothes, shoes, wigs, etc. This is not about dress up or imaginative playtime, this is the reality of Peter living a life that is comfortable and natural.
This summer, Peter has transitioned from living as a boy to living as a girl. Our family and friends now call Peter by the name Melissa. As loving and supporting parents, we have chosen to show our unconditional love for our child by assuring Melissa that she will not be destined to a life of misery. We will do everything possible to make Melissa's life as normal and happy as possible. Today we sadly recall those many nights Melissa couldn't fall asleep at bedtime because she had a lot of worries and was asking “why did God make me a boy, I want to be a girl!” Imagine living the first 10 years of your life pretending to be someone that you are not.
Since Melissa courageously decided be to be the person she truly is, she is a much happier child. She loves to laugh and play, sing and dance! We have the support of family, friends, neighbors, doctors and therapists. Our family is very blessed in that respect. (Our local school) has been very helpful and supportive! It's not easy to be different! God has blessed us with this wonderful little person, but at the same time, God has given our family some unique challenges. After all, of all the challenges a parent might expect to face one day, gender identity probably wouldn't be on the list.
We have worked with the school administration to ensure a smooth transition. Plans are in place to work through normal daily occurrences and activities like bathrooms, gym class, locker rooms, etc…. These practices may be new to town, but are common in many other schools nationwide.
We understand there will inevitably be questions from the students and parents. It's important that everyone keep an open mind to accept that knowledge is power. With this knowledge we can all make sure that our transgender child can successfully integrate into a normal school experience. We ask for your support in this transition. For any of you that may have questions or confusion, please contact us directly or contact the school psychologist. For those of you interested in reading more on this topic, there is a very informative book titled “The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals” by Stephanie A. Brill.
Mark and Linda